Gossip has been around as long as people have been. And it is likely that we have all participated in it and also been the subject of it. In a recent study by the University of California–Riverside, 467 people wore recorders to track parts of their conversations for anywhere from 2-5 days. The data was then analyzed for gossip – anything spoken about someone when they were not present. The researchers found that, on average, people gossiped for about 52 minutes a day, but only 15% was actually negative in nature. The far majority of it was harmless. Here are six ways to tell if your conversation is malignant and if it’s time to change the direction of your conversation.
Is the conversation tearing other people down in inaccurate and unfair ways?
Is the conversation spreading false information about another person?
Would you be embarrassed if the conversation showed up on social media?
Is the conversation intended to elevate yourself, your status, or your image?
Is the conversation likely to stir up conflict within the group or team?
Does the conversation violate confidentiality in such a way as to harm others?
Malignant gossip is harmful both to the person who is not present as well as to those who are. My negative gossip about someone affects the people I am talking to, and can cause them to wonder about my own trustworthiness. All people, including leaders, employees, and friends, would do well to heed the words from Proverbs 18, “The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.”
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center Consulting Group and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.